There can be no getting even for what Vegas did to Edmonton last season unless the Golden Knights are cleaning out their lockers after the loss and the Oilers are getting rings.
And maybe, some day, that will come.
In the meantime, the Oilers have to settle for sending a very simple message: They aren’t dead yet.
As pale as they’ve looked this season, as deep as they are in the ground and as tempting as it’s been to perform last rites on their playoff hopes, they’re still kicking.
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And they got one of those kicks in on the Golden Knights Tuesday, beating the defending Stanley Cup champions in a 5-4 shootout victory for their third win in a row, and sixth win in the last nine games.
Connor McDavid, who had nine points in his previous two games, led the way again, adding three more points in the second period and a goal in the shootout.
The late drama was entirely unnecessary, however, given that the Oilers should have had this game won long before overtime. But they blew a two-goal lead in the final 6:30 to show that as much progress as they’e shown in the last while, there is still a way to go.
Nevertheless, they improved to 8-12-1 to keep the momentum rolling.
“We wanted to get it done a little sooner than that, but they’re a good team,” said McDavid, who has 15 points in his last five games. “But you can see the confidence growing and growing. We’re building something here.”
This was a good time to be getting the Golden Knights. They were in a slump (3-5-2 in their last 10 and 1-2-1 in their last five) and were playing the second of back-to-back games after losing in overtime Monday night in Calgary.
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They were also without defencemen Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez.
The Oilers, meanwhile, had to make leading goal scorer Zach Hyman a late scratch after he fell ill during the day. So it pretty much evened out on the injury front.
Rather than going with Aiden Hill, who beat Edmonton last spring, the Knights started Hill in Calgary and had backup Logan Thompson in against the Oilers. It wasn’t a great start for Thompson, who fell asleep at the switch during a delayed penalty and didn’t head to the Vegas bench, resulting in a too-many-men penalty that nullified the man advantage.
Then he let Sam Gagner’s seeing-eye wrist shot get past him for the only goal of the first period. It was Gagner’s first game back in the lineup since Nov. 18 in Tampa Bay five games ago.
McDavid took over in the second period, adding a goal and two assists to give the Oilers some breathing room. He helped set up Mattias Janmark at 5:08, scored on a breakaway at 7:54 and assisted on Evander Kane’s 11th of the season at 17:23 to give Edmonton a 4-2 lead at the second intermission.
Up 4-2 after 40 minutes at home, it was up to the Oilers to show they could close this game out against a proven contender. They couldn’t. Ben Hutton made it 4-3 with 6:30 to play and Keegan Kolesar tied it with 2:08 left in regulation.
But McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins saved the day with shootout goals and Stuart Skinner won the goaltending battle. After a very sluggish beginning this season he is 6-2 in his last eight starts.